THE PROBLEM: There are two things we are most afraid of in life: the loss of predictability (fear of the unknown) and the loss of control. We want to know what is going to happen next and we want to know that we can maneuver things to be in our best interest.
You might think that experience helps us to be less fearful. Yet, the more things we possess in life—including status, possessions, relationships, and dreams—the more we have to protect. Success often seeds our fears. There truly is freedom in feeling like you have nothing to lose.
Throughout my coaching career, I’ve had many clients who came to me at a very successful stage in their lives, at least from outward appearances. They had made a lot of money in their growing careers, they liked their work, they had supportive and healthy relationships, and they had no apparent health problems.
However, they were not only unhappy, they vacillated between feeling angry or anxious throughout the day. Why were they unable to enjoy their achievements?
THE SOLUTION: I found two areas missing in their lives: 1) a strategy for outsmarting their fears and 2) goals based on “who” they are instead of what they acquire.
Whether you are just starting to see gains in your life or you have a long tally of goals you have achieved, the following steps will help you maintain the feeling of mastery over your destiny.
BRAIN TIP #1: Recognize that the more you try to hold on to what you have today, the greater is your stress. Ask yourself each morning, “What is at stake today, really?” Then ask, “If anything is at stake, do I have any real control over the possible loss?”
It is impossible to keep everything as it is in this moment. Accidents happen. Misunderstandings occur. To err is human. However, catastrophes are rare. Earlier in life, you handled difficulties, pain, and crisis well enough to be where you are today. Trust that if problems occur, you have the skills and wisdom to deal with them, and then shift your thoughts to being grateful for the gifts you have.
BRAIN TIP #2: If your entire life is focused on achieving external goals, you will face a dead end once you reach them. However, if you instead focus on how successful you can be as a human, you will never run out of things to work on. Make a list of what makes you a worthy friend, partner, and parent. Add to the list the special gifts you possess that helped you to realize the successes, large and small, in your life.
Once you have your list, tell yourself, “My only responsibility is to maximize my positive traits, talents, and gifts.” Whenever you feel a little unsure or powerless, read your list and recite the statement above. Your fears will melt away if the only decision you have to make is how you can contribute to your world based on your talents, traits, and gifts.
We often work harder at seeing, accepting, and trusting what is good in our lives than we do on coping with what is difficult. Yet, if we promise ourselves to always take it “one day at a time,” we can gradually shift the balance to feeling more moments of appreciation and delight. Let’s celebrate “the good life” as often as we can.